Wednesday, November 28, 2012

‘Con’ privacy argument: the takeaway

My main project during the Thanksgiving weekend was to complete and submit my argument about privacy for LIBT 117, Ethics in the Information Age.

My assignment was to argue that “Individual citizens don’t need the right to privacy in order to discharge their rights as citizens.” To make it more interesting, the concept of privacy advocated by Ruth Gavison (as discussed in our course text) identified three key elements of privacy: “secrecy,” “anonymity” and “solitude.”

In previous writings, I have issued opinions that would be in character with a persona for this assignment.

In my paper, I argued that anonymity, when abused, runs counter to the requirements of citizenship. I drew upon arguments in a column that was published July 27, 2010 in the Lake County Record-Bee.

On being able to post comments anonymously online: a determined user can rapidly inflict as much damage as possible, because as rapidly as viewers flag an abusive post for removal by a moderator, the user can reinsert the allegations across multiple threads of dialogue. Since the user doesn’t have to leave a name, there is no accountability requiring the user to back his or her allegations with facts.

Previous comments about secrecy were also compatible with the view I was required to put forth in my LIBT 117 assignment.

I argued that secrecy can run counter to a user’s own interests.

I cited Adam Dachis, writing at, suggesting that being too private on Facebook can hurt you because “When you post nothing, everyone else decides who you are.”

My true position, however, acknowledges that not everyone feels comfortable sharing information on the Internet. It formed the basis for a column that was published Nov. 20 in the Record-Bee.

Preemptive public sharing may force people into a more public social-media role than they desire or feel comfortable having. The position I argued for LIBT 117 did not leave room for ambiguity.

The final aspect of privacy I addressed in my course assignment concerned “solitude.” This is an area where I most greatly diverge from the persona adopted for my argument.

I share much of my life through blogging and social media but reserve privacy for some areas of my life that I do not care to disclose.

My takeaway assessment was that it was very informative to craft the “con” privacy argument. It illuminated which aspects of privacy I rely on and which aspects are subservient to values that I consider more important.

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